Argentina: Tierra Del Fuego I.
Tierra del Fuego - the group of islands - is placed in the south part of Argentina. It is composed from Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego (the greatest island) and from numerous small islands (approx. 40 thousands), most of them remain uninhabited. Total extent makes 73753 square kilometres, whereas Isla Grande itself takes approx. 48 000 square kilometres. Tierra del Fuego is divided from continent (main land) by Magalhaes Straits, and from Antarctide by Drake Straits. Isla Grande and the islands in the south (Oste and Navatino) are separated by Beagle Straits. Darwin Mountain (2488 m) is the highest peak of the area.
One section of these groups of islands forms a part of Chile, and the second one of Argentina.
Magalhaes Straits separates this groups of islands from South America Continent. The climate in the territory is not too rough as could be seen from the first view. The average air-temperature in December and in January makes + 9° C, and during a day, when the sun is shining, could reach even to + 18° C. The average temperature in July makes +3° C, and the light is lasting during a day for 7-8 hours only. However, the weather is very unsettled and it changes frequently many times during a day.
In 1520, Magalhaes was a leader of the expedition, looking for the routes to Asia. When he navigated through the straits (channel) - later, it was named on his honour - he saw a smoke rising above islands, caused by big number of fireplaces, established by Indians. So, such fact put him an impulse that he named this territory as Tierra del Fuego. Nevertheless, the Spaniards were not interesting in colonization of this area, as these were inhabited with semi-wild clans of Yagans or Selks, hunters and fishermen. In 1834, Charles Darwin, famous nature scientist, visited these islands and wrote that local inhabitants (aborigines) differ from the Europeans more than domestic animals from wild ones. He made even the comparison with wild dogs, when he was of the opinion that the aborigines are missing any signs (marks) of spiritual life. Nevertheless, local clans confessed their own religion: the people believed Vataineva higher deity and Shamans. They communicated with Gods, had respected authority and corresponding power. During their rites, in honour of men - full age, the Indians of Yagan clan, dressed into dog-masks and their bodies were coloured (dyed) with coal. They danced, keepng their masks of various ghosts, such as: Kipa Mnami - Protector, Tuvela Yaka - Teacher, Chani Yaka - energy donor, etc.
A dream about a gold forced the Spaniards to effect next excursions to South American Continent. Julius Popper, Romanian mining ingenieur, was also possessed by such fever, and the legends about the gold in Tierra del Fuego stirred him up to organize the expedition into this remote part of the world. The expedition was rather successfull and enchoraged the British, Italians, Irishmen and Scotsmen. All joined the expedition in San Sebastian Bay, in small town of El Paramo, where Popper and his team exploited even one kilogramme of gold daily. Popper declared himself as „Fuego-Dictator“ and started to mint golden coins, at weight of 1-5 gramms. He required his unlimited power and control above this area and paid their people for murders of Indians. So, Popper established the first stables for sheep keeping. However, the despocy and greediness of such person disturbed the government. So, from this reason, the company was closed and cancelled in 1990. The mines were exhausted quickly, and Popper lived his last days in the island in total poverty. Golden mines were preserved till now and are open for the visitors. The sheep herds keeping has its boom for the time being.Nowadays, the inhabitants of Tierra del Fuego use Spanish as their mother language but many of them are also able to speak English.
Next part: Ushuaia
Text: Maxim Kucer
Translation: ing. Jan Jonáš
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